Although she's gone from one famous watersports name (Benzel) to another (Mikacich), Tarah Mikacich has been quietly making a name for herself. Once you've been introduced to her bubbly personality and experienced her drive to progress in all she does, it's no surpise that she's successful in just about any undertaking. Even in the off-season we had to catch the busy Tarah between projects so you could find out more about her.
WW: Would it be impolite to start out by asking your age?
TM: Hahaha, I just turned 29, but the good news is that I still have to show my ID to sit in the exit row of an airplane!
WW: Did you marry Cobe Mikacich so that you will be forever young, relatively speaking?
TM: Wow, going right after the age gap! Well, Cobe is definitely a big kid. He always has fun ideas! And since I’ll never catch up with him birthday-wise, I just try to keep up with his fast pace and learn from some of his experiences.
WW: You currently reside in Orlando, Florida, but is that where you’re from originally?
TM: Basically. I grew up in Groveland (which is about 40 minutes from Orlando), but no one really knows where that is.
WW: How did you end up in wakeboarding?
TM: I had been water skiing at a high level for most of my life, but I got to a point where I needed to change things up. I just felt that it didn’t suit me anymore. I asked Cobe to take me wakeboarding because I’d never done it before and I thought it would be a fun change of pace. It was! Fortunately, I got great industry support from the beginning.
WW: How long have you been wakeboarding professionally?
TM: Well, I did my first pro contests in 2007. I blew out my knee at the end of that summer and had a very hard time coming back for a few years. I think I finally rode a full season in 2010 or 2011.
WW: You seem like you’re a super busy person. What occupies all your time?
TM: Cobe! Hahaha, but for real, Cobe has A LOT of projects!
WW: I hear that your wakeboard school is going to be expanding and moving to a new location. Can you tell me about that?
TM: Yes! We are opening Freedom Wake Park in the heart of Orlando! If you’re familiar with Orlando, our new location is about a mile from Performance Ski & Surf. It’s very exciting to have a private lake (with boat & rails) and be close to everything else that people want to do in Orlando!
WW: What’s your favorite part of teaching people how to wakeboard?
TM: It’s really fun for me when I can explain to someone the way that I understand a trick to work, and then all of a sudden they “get it” – they make a really good change and I can tell they’re feeling exactly what I described.
WW: How important is wakeboarding on the Pro Tour to you?
TM: It’s a great part of the sport for sure. But for me, it’s not where I feel I make the biggest impact. It’s a good way to be in the scene though.
WW: What’s the most important part about being a pro wakeboarder?
TM: I think that loving what you do has got to be the most important thing. Sometimes people get too caught up with little things and they forget to be grateful that they get to wakeboard and spend their days on the water.
WW: What’s the hardest part?
TM: Sometimes it’s hard to know how far you can push yourself. There’s always a risk that what you’re trying could injure you and set you back, OR it could bring your riding up to the next level.
WW: Can you tell us about your latest pro model board and bindings?
TM: The O’Brien Vixen is such a great board! It’s really fast, settles into a solid edge and gets clean release and pop off the wake. I love that I never have to question what the board is going to do. I’m also super stoked on the 2013 graphics! It’s my favorite!
WW: If watersports hadn’t come into your life, what would you be doing today?
TM: Is that a real question? I have no idea. I’ve been on the water since I was a baby. Maybe I would have kept playing soccer. Or more likely I’d be a chef. I really like being in the kitchen.
WW: Tell us what you think about the current state of women’s wakeboarding?
TM: The current state? Well, most of us live in Florida. ;) I feel like every time someone asks this question, the answer is that the women are stepping it up. That’s still true. I am really happy to say that most of the companies are dedicating more time and resources to make better products in the women’s lines. The pro women are getting more involved with the design side of the sport and taking ownership in what products are out there for the ladies. That’s a great advancement.
WW: What do you think can be done to improve women’s wakeboarding?
TM: As a whole, female riders still have very limited coverage in the magazines. It would be awesome to see a lot more pro women riders featured in the mags.
WW: You seem to do a lot of charity work. What inspires you to be so involved in such endeavors?
TM: Being able to bring attention and help to those who don’t have a voice is a pretty unequaled experience. Last year, my friend Shea Holbrook and I took part in Fireball Run – an eight-day cross-country rally that raises awareness for and helps find missing children. It was an amazing adventure! O’Brien, Ten-80 and Hangtyte sponsored our team and it made a huge impact!
We’re going to do it again this coming year. The child we are representing is Donald Jackson. We drive 2,500 miles doing events in city after city, so these missing children end up getting a lot of continued media exposure, which is what helps them get recovered.
Most recently, I’ve been putting in some effort to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (along with Nicola and many others in the wake community) in honor of our friend Cianne Naji who just passed away. She was a close friend of mine and I just want her to live on.
WW: Do you prefer being dragged by a boat or a cable?
TM: Boat! Definitely boat…Malibu MXZ!!! I love hitting rails too, but I’m home on a boat.
WW: What other sports do you do when you’re not on the water?
TM: I’ve been playing a lot of beach volleyball this last year. My friend Shontell has a court in her backyard. It’s awesome! I’ve also been going to the Bar Method – it’s like ballet exercises and Pilates combined. It’s a really hard workout!
WW: What would your ideal day look like?
TM: Sleep in. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and coffee, read my daily devotional and catch up with emails, go to work out at Bar Method, eat lunch at Infusion Tea (this amazing vegetarian café near us), wakeboard a couple times in the afternoon (boat and rails), come home and bake some cookies and cook dinner for friends and family.
WW: What’s your favorite trick to do behind the boat?
TM: Melan heel off 3 or indy backside 180.
WW: Who do you usually ride with?
TM: Besides Cobe, I ride with Abby Delgoffe, Tony Carrol, Josh Palma, Stew Mackie, Jeff Langley, Nicola Butler and Shaun Murray.
WW: What riders do you look up to and inspire you?
TM: I’d say that probably 80% of my riding is directly influenced by Cobe. The way that Shaun Murray, Jeff Langley and Aaron Rathy ride really inspires me too.
WW: Where is the best place you’ve ever gone wakeboarding?
TM: I got to ride at Lake Santeetlah this last summer and it was amazingly beautiful! Glassy calm water for miles and forested mountains all around.
WW: Tell us about your gear; board, bindings, boat, etc.
TM: I love my setup! Every once in awhile I try other boards just to make sure I’m not missing out on anything, but I always come right back to my O’Brien Vixen! Cobe designed the shape a few years back and it’s my favorite! I’m also rocking the Skyla boots. They mold perfectly around my feet and I never have to think about them. Right now we have a Malibu VLX 21’. It’s such a great boat for any level of rider.
WW: What are your plans for 2013?
TM: This year pro women are only at 5 stops, instead of 8, so I’ll be making more time to shoot and film and work on the tricks that I really want to do without worrying about the next event being only three days away. For me, riding with friends and having the freedom to learn the tricks that feel right for me (as opposed to what would be needed for a contest) is more meaningful and has a lot more longevity.
WW: What’s it like being married to a wakeboarding legend turned crazy inventor guy?
TM: It’s entertaining! We have fun together and we complement each other with completely opposite strengths. He creates and I take care of the details. And, I get to hear about how nobody has the right to complain about the wake…they learned Raleys and back mobes behind a ski boat with no tower and strap-bindings! Uphill both ways…LOL.
WW: Any words of advice to the young girls out there who want to do what you do?
TM: Be strong. Not everyone will believe in you. Ride with your friends. Don’t put others down to make yourself look better. The better you all are, the better the sport is. Truly enjoy yourself.
WW: Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
TM: I just praise the Lord for what’s he’s brought me through, where he’s brought me to and for guiding me along the way. I’ve also had amazing support from Cobe, my family, O’Brien, Malibu, Ten-80, Honu, Straight Line, Point Conception, Shred Ready, B4BC and Hangtyte.